Municipalities as designers of public space: BBH prepares expert opinion for Agora Verkehrswende

The law firm Becker Büttner Held (BBH) has analysed on behalf of Agora Verkehrswende how public spaces in towns and cities can be planned and designed and which role the municipalities play in this context: Municipalities can control the use of public space, but not to a sufficient extent. In order to increase their control capacity, the existing laws need to be changed.

Public space is limited, which increasingly leads to conflicts of use especially in urban areas. While private cars traditionally occupy a considerable proportion of public space, more and more mobility concepts are emerging that present alternatives to owning a car. In addition to the expansion of the recharging infrastructure for electric vehicles, new mobility options like car, bike and scooter sharing have long become part of the cityscape in Berlin, Munich or Hamburg. This trend will continue to spread over smaller towns, too.

The less public space is available, the more urgent it becomes to plan the space that is available in a sensible way and this is a matter for the municipalities. The expert opinion “Öffentlicher Raum ist mehr Wert” (“Public space is worth more”), which BBH prepared for Agora Verkehrswende, examines the aspiration of municipalities to shape the public space by establishing new mobility solutions. BBH authors Dr. Roman Ringwald, Dr. Christian de Wyl and Sophia Schmidt come to the conclusion that although the municipalities’ scope of action is indeed bigger than generally assumed, it is still to be considered as unsatisfactory.

Municipalities may already convert parking spaces to other uses, control individual transport by means of parking management systems and promote the use of car-sharing models. However, the expert opinion indicates that there is a need for legal adjustments especially in relation to the sharing concept. As regards stationary car sharing, municipalities may set aside dedicated parking spaces for this purpose and stipulate minimum conditions for car-sharing providers. However, due to the lack of clear provisions in this regard, it has not been conclusively established what conditions are admissible. “Unfortunately, the legal situation is anything but clear for the municipalities”, explains Dr. Christian de Wyl. The municipalities’ possibilities in terms of controlling station-independent car sharing are not clear either. “These possibilities have been very limited so far. If the providers of shared mobility services do not coordinate their actions with the municipalities, it can have very unpleasant consequences, such as the public space being flooded by rental bikes, as happened in Munich. A possible solution would be to control shared mobility services by means of contract award procedures,” states Dr. Roman Ringwald.

Becker Büttner Held is a leading provider of advisory services for energy and infrastructure companies and their customers. Energy and supply companies, particularly public utilities, municipalities and local authorities, industrial companies and international groups are among its core clients. BBH advises these and many other companies and organisations in all legal matters and also assists them with business and strategic advice.


Dr. Ines Zenke
Lawyer, Partner
Tel +49 (0)30 611 28 40-179

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